Thursday, December 24, 2009

Even Mary Wrestled With It

Here's a super-sized post for you. Merry Christmas! :)

At NPC we're constantly advocating that our church is an environment where people can find answers to their questions.

That it's ok to be on a journey of faith, to have doubts and problems that you're wrestling with, that there is no shame or condemnation in that.

That you're not expected to have all the answers, that your faith isn't necessarily expected to be rock solid.

Some would call this a "seeker sensitive" church...mostly because labels are fun, and some think that term is demeaning. I think of it as realistic.

I think that we all have doubts, questions, problems and issue with God, faith, religion, church and life that we're wrestling with.

Faith in Your Heart

I consider myself to have a pretty dang solid faith. I've come to this through the way God has moved in my life and in the lives of others. I've seen what I consider to be miracles displayed through healings, I've been in situations where God has worked in powerful ways through spiritual gifts, I've heard God speak things to me in my mind and have experienced the miracles of the interactions that resulted with others through it. I have *felt* God's existence. That's all experiential.

Faith in Your Head

But my faith is also based very strongly on non-experiential aspects as well. I've studied a not-too-small amount of historical information. I feel very confident in the way information has been maintained and transferred down through thousands of years. I'm not a proponent of divine inerrancy, but without a doubt the Bible is one of the most well maintained and reliably accurate collection of documents in the history of mankind. I know that Jesus is as authentic a historical figure as Leonardo Da Vinci, George Washington or Galileo.

So I feel I have a good balance of faith in "my head" and "my heart." And yet with all of that, sometimes I wonder that if maybe....just maybe, we may have just made the whole thing up.

There. Now that's on the table and you don't have to wonder.

I think some of this could be that when we really sit down and think about it, God & faith are too monstrous to wrap our minds around. That there is such an enormity to God that we just can't believe it. There is an awe and a wonder of God that makes us say to ourselves, "You know, if God was real, he'd be more accessible. It wouldn't be so difficult to believe. If God was real, he would make sense, he would fit into our molds, he wouldn't be so freaking unbelievable."

I Can't Believe This is Happening

I think that little parts of that disbelief may never fully go away. Because they're not a kind of doubt necessarily. It's like when you see something incredibly rare occurring before your very eyes, and you just 'can't believe it's happening.' That's the kind of disbelief we're dealing with here. We have evidence in front of us, we're experiencing it, we know it to be true, and even in our full knowledge of the truth of the event, we don't believe it.

Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured all these things pondering them in her heart.

This was after Mary had given birth to Jesus, and he is laying in the manger. The shepherds from the field have shown up and told Mary & Joseph about the angels who appeared to them and the message they were given that this child is the messiah. That the savior they've been waiting on for hundreds of years is finally here, and it's this baby.

When the shepherds told their story, the people who heard it marveled at it. They praised God and admired him for this incredible action.

But not Mary.

All of that is before verse 19, so when we see the "but" at the beginning, we know that her reaction is in place of all this admiration, worship and wonder.

It says she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. The words used in the text are a bit richer than what they're translated as.


This means to preserve, to count as so valuable that you're going to keep in your mind. That you're not going to forget it, you are treasuring and valuing this information because you know you don't want to ever forget it.


The word used here means 'a throwing together.' It has a connotation of violence. That you're conversing strongly with someone (in this context, herself) about an issue. That it's heated, that it's personal and passionate. It means to encounter another person or information in a distinctly hostile sense. It's wrestling.

And guess what, you don't wrestle with something you believe unless you also doubt it.

So we have Mary:
  • who was visited by an angel when she was pregnant
  • whose husband was visited as well
  • who had a relative who confirmed Mary's visions with her own prophecies
  • who gave birth to the child....without the accompanying business time
  • who had shepherds come to her and tell her what THEY had seen and heard and it matched up perfectly with her story
And instead doing as the others did (worshiping God in wonder), she takes all of this information and all of these experiences...and wrestles with them.

Because despite everything--the miracles, the visions, the angels, the prophecies, the knowledge that she didn't have sex and still somehow got pregnant and freaking gave birth--

She still couldn't quite believe it.